The Pope’s trip to Cuba: a gamble

Mary O’Grady:
The Pope’s Cuba Gamble
Ignoring those who have suffered for their faith may win some favor for the Church, but it risks alienating the island’s faithful.

As readers of this blog know, the Ladies in White have requested to meet with the Pope during his visit to Cuba,

Numerous other Christians on the island have made similar requests. From the U.S., Yale Prof. Carlos Eire wrote a powerful plea on behalf of the Ladies for National Review Online on March 5: “Like the Canaanite woman who cried out to Jesus, ‘Lord, help me!’ or the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s robe in hope of a cure, they are reaching out, full of faith, begging against all odds. In an island where everyone has been turned into a beggar, they beg for the rarest and most precious gift of all: your presence.” Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s office told the Ladies in White that the pope’s schedule is too tight.

Some dissidents wonder whose side the cardinal is on. In recent years he was instrumental in helping the regime deport scores of political prisoners who had become a liability for the regime’s image. Though he recently offered a Mass for ailing Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, Ms. Soler’s request for a Mass for deceased dissidents has gone unanswered.

The cardinal has said that the purpose of the trip is “a new evangelization” and of course spreading the gospel is the Lord’s work. But it is hard to see how converts will be won if the pope snubs the marginalized and schmoozes with the powerful.

On Thursday, 13 Christians holed up inside Our Lady of Charity of Cobre church in Havana to demand that the pope hear their grievances against the regime were forcibly removed by police, reportedly at the request of Cardinal Ortega. Then on Friday the Vatican announced that if Fidel Castro wants to meet, “the pope will be available.”

Mary concludes,

Unless he has something up his sleeve, the visit may turn out to be a gross miscalculation. Cubans know that they are hostages in their own country. If the pope is perceived as going along with this big lie, it will only heighten the sense of betrayal toward Cardinal Ortega and it will do nothing to strengthen the Church in Cuba.

Here is the text of Carlos Eire’s letter, which I posted a couple of weeks ago before the blog crashed,

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI 27 February 2012
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Most Holy Father:

I’m writing to thank you for your upcoming visit to Cuba. It is very heartening to know that you will be visiting eleven million prisoners. After all, that whole island is a prison, and all of its inhabitants prisoners.

I write not only as a Cuban but as one of your flock and as a scholar. The professorship I hold here at Yale University – named after Yale’s first Catholic chaplain – is the chair in Catholic studies. Oddly enough, many at this very secular university think that I am your nuncio and in constant contact with you, simply because I hold the Catholic chair.

So, I am now finally doing what they think I often do, writing to you.

All of the imprisoned in Cuba need your visit, desperately. Your physical presence will do much to uplift their spirits, and give them a glimpse of the world beyond their salt-water prison walls, perhaps even a glimmer of The Kingdom of Heaven itself, especially when you celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass and Christ is made present among them.

You will have to meet with the tyrants, jailers, and executioners, of course. That is inevitable. Not much has changed since Our Lord said “See, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” The tyrants and their henchmen will probably attend Mass, as they did when your predecessor the Venerable John Paul II visited the island some years ago.

These men need you too, in their own twisted way. They hope your visit will lend them an aura of legitimacy, fatten their coffers, and fool the world into thinking that they are not tyrants after all.

Many of your predecessors have dealt with such men, under worse circumstances. We Cubans know that those will not be easy moments for you. But our prayers will accompany every step you take, and every handshake too. And we are confident that the Holy Spirit will help you deal with these wolves as Our Lord Jesus Christ advised nearly two thousand years ago, when he told his disciples to be “as cunning as serpents yet as innocent as doves.”

I have but one request: please meet with the Ladies in White while you are in Cuba. They have asked for this themselves, through your nuncio Monsignor Bruno Musaro, with whom they met a few weeks ago. Bless them with your presence, please, Most Holy Father. They are brave beyond belief; but, subjected as they are to constant physical and mental abuse, and to the constant threat of imprisonment or death, they are in dire need of your blessing.

As you well know, they are often attacked and beaten and prevented from attending church; sometimes they’ve even been attacked inside churches. They are living out the gospel, at a high cost, laying their lives down for their brethren. Like the Canaanite woman who cried out to Jesus, ‘Lord, help me!’ or the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s robe in hope of a cure, they are reaching out, full of faith, begging against all odds. In an island where everyone has been turned into a beggar, they beg for the rarest and most precious gift of all: your presence.

And, oh, what a sight that would be for all the world to see! You and the Ladies in White together. What a jolt to the senses: an image so unexpected, it might restore sight to those blinded by hate, perhaps, or stem the flow of blood that has stained that beautiful prison island for far too long. It might even make demons flee, too.

Your power as Vicar of Christ is unique. You command the world’s attention. You serve as the world’s conscience. Your public acknowledgment of the Ladies in White could change the course of history. They pray for that; we all pray for it too, along with them. I, a beggar, driven from my homeland fifty years ago, join the bold Ladies in begging. We beg like the blind man who would not stop crying out to Jesus and yelled all the louder when told to shut up.

And we beg in the name of Jesus, hoping you will hear our voices above the din made by those who want us not to be seen or heard.

Humbly yours, in Christ,

Carlos M. N. Eire
T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies

My translation, which was sent to the Ladies in White for them to read in Spanish,

Muy Santísimo Padre,

Le escribo para agradecerle su próxima visita a Cuba. Alienta mucho saber que usted va a visitar once millones de presos. Al fin y al cabo, la isla entera es una cárcel en la cual todos sus habitantes están presos.

Le escribo no solamente como cubano, pero también como miembro de su rebaño y como catedrático y hombre de letras. El profesorado que ejerzo aquí en la Universidad de Yale – plaza nombrada en honor al primer capellán católico de Yale – es la Cátedra de Estudios Católicos. Por extraño que parezca, muchos en esta universidad sumamente laica creen que yo soy su nuncio y que estoy en contacto continuo con usted sencillamente porque ocupo esta Cátedra Católica.

Así que ahora, por fin, estoy haciendo lo que ellos creen que hago con frecuencia, y le escribo.

Todos los que están presos en Cuba necesitan su visita, desesperadamente. Su presencia física les elevará el espíritu, y les dará un vistazo al mundo que existe más allá de la muralla de agua salada de esa cárcel, quizás hasta un vislumbre al mismo Reino del Cielo, sobre todo cuando usted haga presente a Cristo entre ellos al celebrar el sagrado sacrificio de la Misa.

Por supuesto que usted tendrá que reunirse con los tiranos, carceleros y verdugos. Eso es inevitable. Poco ha cambiado desde que Nuestro Señor dijo, “Os envío como ovejas en medio de lobos”. Lo más seguro es que los tiranos y sus secuaces vayan a la Misa, tal como asistieron cuando su antecesor el Venerable Juan Pablo II visitó la isla hace ya unos años.

Esos hombres también lo necesitan a Ud., al modo retorcido de ellos. Ellos esperan que su visita les preste un aura de legitimidad, les traiga plata, y que engañe al mundo a creer que al fin y al cabo no son tiranos.

Muchos de sus antecesores han bregado con tales hombres, y bajo peores circunstancias. Nosotros los cubanos sabemos que para usted tales momentos no serán fáciles. Pero nuestras oraciones lo acompañarán a cada paso y a cada apretón de manos. Y tenemos la certeza que el Espíritu Santo le ayudará a portarse con estos lobos como Nuestro Señor Jesucristo nos aconsejó hace casi dos mil años atrás, cuando les dijo a sus discípulos que fueran “prudentes como serpientes y sencillos como palomas.”

Solamente tengo una cosa que rogarle: por favor, reúnase con las Damas de Blanco durante su visita a Cuba. Ellas mismas se lo han pedido, a través de su Nuncio Monseñor Bruno Musaro, con el cual se reunieron unas semanas atrás. Bendígalas con su presencia, por favor, muy Santo Padre. Ellas son asombrosamente valientes; pero, sometidas como están al continuo abuso físico y mental, y a la amenaza constante a prisión o muerte, necesitan abrumaduramente su bendición.

Como ya usted bien sabe, con frecuencia las atacan y golpean y se les impide que vayan a la iglesia; a veces hasta las han atacado estando dentro de las iglesias. Están viviendo el evangelio, a gran costo, arriesgando sus vidas por su hermandad. Como la cananea que le gritó a Jesús, “¡Señor, socórreme!”, o como la mujer que tocó el ruedo de Jesús con la esperanza de que El la curase, ellas aspiran, llenas de fe, suplicando contra toda probabilidad. En una isla donde a todos se les ha convertido en mendigos, ellas suplican por el más raro y valioso don de todos: Su presencia.

Y, oh, ¡qué imagen sería esa para el mundo entero! El Vicario de Cristo y las Damas de Blanco juntos. Qué sacudida para los sentidos: una imagen tan inesperada, que podría restaurarle la vista a los que ciega el odio, tal vez, o que detenga el desangre que ha estado manchando la hermosa isla prisión desde hace demasiado tiempo. Hasta tal vez saldrán en fuga los demonios.

Su poder como Vicario de Cristo es único. Usted impone la atención mundial. Usted sirve como la conciencia del mundo. Su reconocimiento público de las Damas de Blanco podría cambiar el curso de la historia. Ellas rezan por ello; todos también rezamos con ellas. Yo, un mendigo, expulsado de mi patria cincuenta años atrás, me uno a las osadas Damas de Blanco en su súplica. Suplicamos como el ciego que no paró de llamar a Jesús y gritó más duro cuando le dijeron que se callara.

Así le rogamos en nombre de Jesús, con la esperanza que usted escuche nuestras voces sobre el barullo que hacen los que no quieren que ni se nos vea ni se nos oiga.

Humildemente suyo, en Cristo,

Carlos M. N. Eire
Profesor T. Lawrason Riggs de Historia y Religión
Yale University

Traducción: Fausta Rodríguez Wertz

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2 Responses to “The Pope’s trip to Cuba: a gamble”

  1. GM Roper Says:

    More power to the Ladies in White. And I notice your archives are back. Good!

  2. Fausta Says:

    My archives from May 2010 to March 18, 2012 are still gone. I’m slowly reposting a few recent items I could find.